Catalog Design Handbook

0. Introduction

Catalogs do much more than promote products and solicit purchases. From luxury goods to practical necessities, products come to life on catalog pages that present features, functions, and benefits to target audiences.

In the early days of modern merchandising, doorstop-sized catalogs from big retailers such as Sears and Montgomery Ward delivered the promise of collections of goods to far-flung customers who otherwise would have been unable to envision, let alone obtain, the items on their pages. The arrival of a new catalog edition created an occasion for excitement over the prospect of discovering new products, daydreaming over expensive goods, and planning how to improve life with new ideas and options.

Some catalogs show examples of how products elevate and improve life, creating a vision of ease and enjoyment that customers can attain with a simple purchase. Other catalogs enumerate features in brief bullet-point form, stepping up product capabilities from entry-level through deluxe models to convey the incremental functionality and value of higher-end merchandise.

Catalogs work best when they reflect a deliberate philosophy, a specific way of communicating with customers that shows how products will make a difference in real lives. Otherwise, catalogs become nothing more than random, haphazard collections of merchandise with no unifying thought to pull them together.

Your catalog development

When you’re planning a catalog for your business, you face a range of strategic choices designed to determine everything from the catalog’s philosophy to its appearance. These pages outline some of the decisions that will affect the kinds of information your catalog includes, what your catalog does in establishing a connection with customers and prospects, and how well your catalog accomplishes its mission of increasing your revenue stream.

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